Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/105

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THE HOUSE OF GODEFFROY.

lands in Samoa, where they now own about 25,000 acres of the finest alluvial soil and richest forest, all intersected by streams and rivers, acquired at a cost of about three shillings an acre! On this land they are establishing large plantations, upwards of 4000 acres being devoted to cotton. To work these they employ about 1000 "foreign labour," imported from the multitudinous groups with which their vessels trade.

Here, at Apia, they own a first-class harbour, and have established a regular shipbuilding-yard, wherein to refit old vessels and build new ones. And in many a remote isle, in various parts of the Pacific, they have acquired lands and harbours, to secure central points of operation. In the Ellis group they have bought the isle of Nukufetau, on account of its excellent harbour; and (passing onwards towards their original establishment at Cochin) they have secured 3000 acres on the isle of Yap, in the Pelew group, to the west of the Caroline Isles. I believe there is not one group in the Central Pacific where they have not established trading relations. They are said to have agents resident on every isle where there is any possibility of gain, and where the natives will tolerate the presence of a white man. Naturally the majority of these are by no means men calculated to improve the people; in many cases they are taken from the riff-raff, who in past years have sought in the isles an asylum from civilised laws, and by long residence have acquired a thorough knowledge of the habits and language of the natives. These men receive no salary. They are simply provided with the materials to build a solid house, and a supply of whatever trade is likely to prove acceptable to the people as barter, and are expected to accumulate an equivalent in produce within a reasonable period. No awkward questions as to character are asked. The sine quâ non is a knowledge of the language, a power of discreet silence, and a capability of not quarrelling with the natives. To further the latter requirement, their employers stipulate that every agent of theirs shall have his own "establishment," no matter from what isle he may import his companion. But they resolutely refuse to sanction the legal marriage of any German subject with a native woman.